19 Jan Learn More About the Winemaking Process
The vineyard is the key determinant in the end product wine for every single vintage. Vineyards are where the early grape life starts and thrives and all wines are essentially birthed on vines. The different factors that come into play here are the vineyard’s location, terrain, soils, climate, rootstocks and vines, pest management measures and irrigation systems. Time on the vine and sun exposure also have very important roles to play in the grapes growth and ripening process. In this article, we take a look at the different stages of the winemaking process.
#1 Crushing & destemming
Once the grapes have all been harvested, the next stage is to quickly crush and destem them. The objective of crushing the grapes isn’t only to squeeze out all the juices from the fruit, but to ensure that the fleshy portion of the fruit splits from the external skin; this allows the juice to begin its run, giving all the sugars the first chance to intermingle with grape skin’s natural yeast. This combination produces the alcohol in the wine.
#2 Wine fermentation
In this phase, the wine sets out on the road to its final destination – the bottle! The sugars in the grape become converted to alcohol (ethyl alcohol) & carbon dioxide, along with a certain amount of residual heat that would need to be monitored to prevent any distortion in the flavouring. Red wine fermentation generally takes place in oak barrels, large vats or stainless steel tanks. White wine fermentation typically takes place in SS tanks with much lower heat levels that are very closely monitored; the oxygen levels are also strictly guarded (to prevent quick oxidation).
This step comes right after the crushing in white grapes and post fermentation for the red grape varieties; in this phase the sticky grape solids that are left from the fermentation or crushing processes are squeezed to get a thick liquid that is used in enhancing the flavour and colour of the wine that will be made from these grapes.
#4 Malolactic fermentation
In this process, lactic acid bacteria convert the stronger malic acids in the juices into lactic acid, to produce a more inviting palate and softer mouth feel & presence. Most of the red wines go through this process to bring down their acidity levels; some fuller-bodied white wines may also be sent through the malolactic fermentation stage (in the barrel) to add some mellowness to them.
#5 Maturing the wine
This winemaking phase represents the home stretch of every wine’s journey from the vine to bottle. Whenever you think of maturing wines, traditional oak barrels are what comes to mind and with good reason; American and French Oak are the commonly used materials for barrels used in maturing wine. Oak not only imparts flavour, but offers protection, and allows minute amounts of oxygen to penetrate the wine via staves to create complexity in white and red wines, as well as ease the tighter tannins.
#6 Fining and filtration
This process involves various critical components; the wine is clarified and most of the unwanted particulates in it are removed via this proves. In many instances, egg whites are used to bind the tiny floating particles in the wine; this weighs them down and they eventually end up at the bottom of the barrels which makes separation easy. The bigger solids such as the dead yeast cells are also removed get rid of the cloudiness in the wines and make it bright and clear.
Once all these steps have been completed, the wines are blended based in their tannin content, alcohol levels, acidity, aroma and colour, after which the resultant wine is bottled via mechanical bottling lines where they are capped wither with modern screw caps or a traditional corks, depending on the traditions and philosophies of the winery.
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